It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m in a gym full of second graders, and they’re shrilling and spinning in anticipation of the cookies and cupcakes and candy hearts they know are waiting. And I’m behind that black box, behind that lens trained on my own seven year old as he steps and shuffles with his friends, behind that magic machine that is my shield and my pass in these situations.
And then they want the parents to join their kids for the Electric Slide.
I know, I know, it is the easiest of dances, the staple of wedding receptions, but whatever kind of coordination or grace or alchemy that lets you look at what someone else’s hands and feet are doing, and do it too, well, I don’t have that. I try to watch the teacher nearest me and copy his steps, and let me tell you, he has some serious moves on this polished floor and I am really really bad. I go left as the group shifts right, forward to their back, and I am in a time machine back to my own awkward school days and is that a spotlight?
But somehow I hear that voice I too often ignore. “It’s not about you.”
And what do you know? It isn’t.
It is about this seven year old guy beside me, in his tie dyed t shirt, smiling up at me. He’s just happy I’m here. And I laugh and shrug and do my best and since life is not a movie, I continue to dance badly to the end. And then it is time for the parents to leave their dancing kids and go set up the sugar-fest in the classroom, fill the plates on the desks with the Valentine boxes, ready to be stuffed with superheroes and Pokemon and princesses.
Behind me I hear Sam, nudging one of his buddies, “Hey, that’s my mom!”
What a Valentine for me, to hear the heart of the Father in the words of my child! Still in the afterglow of my clumsiness, my near-gracelessness, he names me and claims me. He singles me out as his. The only steps he remembers are the ones that carried me down the hall and in the door to be with him, to see his friends, to pass out pretzels and pour juice and be present.
There is a celebration just because I showed up. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it, looking down at my toes.